Find the right lawyer now

Finalizing a Divorce

Find a Local Family Lawyer near You

How Do You Finalize a Divorce?

Most states will not automatically grant you a divorce once you file for one. There may be a mandatory waiting period between when a divorce is filed and when it is finalized. The purpose of this period is to encourage reconciliation between the two spouses.

If the divorce is uncontested, then this waiting period may be the only substantial hurdle between the initial filing and the finalization of the divorce. However, if there is a dispute between the parties on the outcome of the divorce, such as child support or division of property and debt, then the divorce is contested. Any disputes in a contested divorce must be resolved through a trial, negotiation, or mediation, delaying the finalization of the divorce.

What Are the Main Steps in Finalizing a Divorce?

The main steps to take to finalize a divorce predominantly consist of:

  1. Make sure you qualify to file for a divorce in your state.
  2. Make sure all the required paperwork is filled out and filed with the appropriate court.
  3. Give your spouse legal notice that you are filing a divorce.
  4. Go through the waiting period that is required by your state.
  5. File the application for entry of default and send a copy to your spouse.
  6. If you have a minor, complete your parent education course if the court requires one. The completion certification must be filed with the court stating that you completed the course.
  7. Schedule a court date and take all the necessary paperwork with you to your hearing.
  8. Complete the decree of divorce document that puts the terms of your divorce in writing. Either spouse can prepare this document.

What Is the Waiting Period before a Divorce Is Finalized?

As mentioned above, a divorce may not be finalized in some states until the waiting period has been satisfied. Every state has its own length for the waiting period. Typically, if the couple files jointly for the divorce, the waiting period clock starts at the time of filing. If only one spouse files for divorce, the clock starts when the other party has been served and given notice of the divorce.

The length of the waiting period before a divorce is finalize varies from state to state:

  • California: 6 months between the day the respondent spouse is served with the divorce papers and the day the divorce is officially finalized.
  • Florida: 20 days from the time the divorce is filed and when it is finalized, unless the court finds that an injustice would occur by the waiting period.
  • Illinois: Generally the parties must show that the spouses have lived separate and apart for a continuous period in excess of 2 years separate and apart, which does not necessarily mean separate housing. However, in a no-fault divorce, if the spouses have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least 6 months, the parties can stipulate in writing to waive the 2-year living apart requirement.
  • New York: 30 days between the day the respondent spouse is officially served with the divorce papers and the day the divorce is officially finalized.
  • Texas: 60 days from the time the divorce is filed and when it is finalized.

What Is a Default Divorce?

A default divorce occurs when one spouse files for divorce, but the other spouse dies not respond to the divorce complaint or appear in court to contest it. If more than 31 days pass since the spouse was served with the divorce papers and given legal notice, the filing spouse may request a judgment of the divorce from the court by filing a petition to enter default. The judge will then make a ruling based on the divorce petition filed.

How Do I Know When My Divorce Is Finalized?

After you have filed for divorce, the next thing that you must do is to see whether the divorce has been finalized. You may find out whether your divorce has been finalized by doing the following things:

  • Attend a final hearing and hear directly from the judge that your divorce has been granted
  • Receive a copy of the final judgment in the mail Call the courthouse with jurisdiction over your divorce and get the information
  • Go to the local courthouse and search the public records for the final judgment and whether the case has been closed.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Divorce?

The court process for obtaining a divorce can be very confusing, so it may be wise to consult with a divorce attorney to help explain your rights and to protect your interests. Moreover, a lawyer can help you negotiate a divorce decree and assign debt responsibilities to the appropriate spouse.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-12-2018 06:23 PM PDT

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.